Trump Promises Environmental Protection; Guts EPA
March 10, 2017
In his first address to Congress last week, President Donald Trump vowed to “promote clean air and clean water”, raising the unavoidable question: Then why gut the Environmental Protection Agency?
Has the President forgotten what happened to the water in Flint, Michigan? Is he aware of the EPA’s own data showing that polluters dumped over 190 million tons of toxic chemicals into the nation’s waterways in 2015 alone? Maybe he thinks 116 million Americans prefer to live in counties with harmful levels of ozone and particle pollution. These data highlight the need for a stronger EPA, not a weaker one.
The establishment of the EPA in 1970 was an important step in restoring a country that had been devastated by industrial abuse, and a necessary step toward improving public health. In this video, Bill Moyers explains how “unfettered industries were running our country to ruin.”
“Rivers were polluted, lead gasoline threatened the developing brains of children, trash choked harbors, illegal dumping leeched into ground water, and agricultural run-off suffocated marine waterways.”
It should be clear to everyone that President Trump couldn’t care less about these issues, aside from the fact that they serve as impediments to business. His choice for EPA administrator illustrates this well. Scott Pruitt has spent his entire political career taking contributions from corporations and doing their bidding. As Oklahoma Attorney General, Pruitt sued the EPA 14 times and shut down the state’s Environmental Enforcement Unit. Now he claims that the states should enforce environmental regulations themselves.
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In an article written for Huffington Post last week, Elliot Negin argues that states are simply unable to take on the extra load. He claims that the already overburdened states depend heavily on assistance from the EPA in the form of grants and expertise.
But even if the states weren’t overburdened, even if their regulatory agencies weren’t under attack by governors and other state officials bent on protecting polluters, they still need the EPA's assistance in protecting public health. As Negin points out, pollution ignores state boundaries. Some corporations own polluting factories in multiple states, as well as factories that emit pollutants into multiple states. We need a strong centralized agency for dealing with these types of issues but it seems clear that we won’t be getting one under President Trump.
This is despite a January 2017 Reuters poll which found that 60% of Americans want the EPA’s authority to be preserved or strengthened under the Trump administration, including 47% of self-described Republicans. A December 2016 Pew Research poll also found that 59% of Americans believe stronger environmental regulations are worth the cost.
So, in case it wasn’t already obvious, corporations are the real constituents in this country. The rest of us are special interests.